Professional development needs of oncology nurse navigators (ONNs) have not been clearly identified, both for novice and more experienced navigators. Although some work has begun to define training for novice ONNs, most information about education for experienced ONNs comes from evaluation data and anecdotal reports.    

Experienced ONNs’ Educational Needs

The literature indicates that the ONN role can vary significantly within and between institutions. However, some consistent themes related to professional development needs have emerged.  

According to Deborah Christensen, MSN, APRN, AOCNS®, OCN®, system lead of oncology navigation and survivorship at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, “Education needs for ONNs vary based on their oncology experience. However, regardless of oncology experience (infusion, floor nursing, specialty), all of the navigators have requested information on cancer biology. Because the ONN role requires nurses to answer disease-specific questions, competent understanding of specific disease processes, treatment options, and side effect management are vital to ONNs’ success.” 

The need for updates on new treatments and evidence-based management of specific types of cancer is supported by evaluation data from navigator-specific educational programs (ONS, 2017, 2018). 

“Education on intake/barrier assessment and methods for patient tracking, documentation, and metrics are top of mind for ONNs,” Christensen, who is the program chair and a past attendee, said. 

Again, those needs are supported by the evaluation data, with learners requesting information about metrics for evaluating outcomes for patients and navigation programs as well as technologies that can help facilitate patient care, workflow, and documentation (ONS, 2017, 2018). The data also revealed other needs, such as how to start and maintain patient navigation programs; address financial issues, especially for patients who are uninsured or underinsured; use acuity tools to guide decisions related to workload distribution and required resources; and advocate for the ONN role both within and outside of an employing institution.  

ONN Professional Development

ONS jointly provides the ONA Navigation Summit with Oncology Nurse Advisor, a three-day conference dedicated to ONNs. The 2019 summit’s focus is Fulfilling the Promise of Navigation: Improving Competencies in the Changing Landscape of Cancer Care and will be held in Philadelphia, PA, from June 13–15. Designed to meet both novice and experienced ONNs’ professional development needs, sessions discuss topics such as financial concerns, navigation models, metrics, disease-specific navigation, and navigating complex patients. In addition, Triage Cancer is providing an insurance and finance intensive preconference program. 

“The ONA Summit is a great opportunity for ONNs to engage with navigation experts,” Christensen said. “Attendees will hear real-life experiences from peers who have successfully implemented best practice interventions. The conference is small enough to provide opportunities for attendees to interact, yet large enough to support quality speakers. After attending the ONA Summit, participants will have practices and useful tools they can easily take back to their institutions and duplicate.” 

In addition to the ONA Summit, ONS provides a variety of resources to help novice and experienced ONNs develop and expand skills required to be successful in the role (see sidebar).

To learn more about the ONA Navigation Summit or to register, visit their website.

ONS. (2017). ONA Navigation Summit evaluation survey. Unpublished raw data.

ONS. (2018). ONA Navigation Summit evaluation survey. Unpublished raw data.